Social health is more than just the prevention of mental illness and social problems. Being socially healthy means increased degree of happiness including sense of belonging and concern for others.
As we grow, social ties start building their place in our lives. We become a part of different communities around us like, school, college, office etc. These positive relations help us build a support system making us healthier. Social health might seem ignorable and difficult to address yet it stands as one of the pillars of health.
It has been proven with relevant incidence that those who are well integrated in the society have longer and healthier life. A review published in PLoS Medicine indicates that good social relationships are were associated with 50% increase in survival chances.
As social health is one of the dimensions of health, thus we must know what is health.
Health- a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO).
Well-being- The well-being stands for absence of negative conditions and feelings and if not the total absence then presence of more positive aspects than negative ones.
Social well-being- It is the ability of the people to be free from want of basic necessities and to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement or well-being stands for absence of negative conditions and feelings and if not the total absence then presence of more positive feelings than negative ones.
Social health: a state of well-being
Social health is a positive dimension of health which is included in the constitutional definition of health of WHO. It is an individual’s ability to handle and act based on different social conditions.
Need of social health
Having healthy relation involves good communication, empathy, and care for family, friends and colleagues. Being self-centered, violent and alone have ill effects on health causing stress and depression which are a threat to self and others. Social isolation and social exclusion, both are causes of poor chances of survival with a decreased degree of quality of life, depression and increased risk for chronic diseases. These in turn can lead to poor physical and mental health. Hence, the social health can be considered as cause behind the cause.
Determinants of social health
The factors like unequal distribution of various health-damaging conditions eg. economy, goods and services, access to education, communities etc. determine the social health of a person. In turn, poor and unequal distribution of these conditions are a result of poor social policies and programs which have a determining effect on the living conditions of an individual’s life. per WHO, people have dramatically different life spans depending on places where they are born. In Japan people tend to live > 80 years, in Brazil, 72 years; India, 63 years; and in one of African countries, the life span is less than 50 years. In turn, Thus, there must exist a balance between social and economic development for overall health of a country.
Dimensions of social health
According to Corey Lee M. Keyes, there are 5 dimensions of social health and well- being i.e social integration, social contribution, social coherence, social actualization and social acceptance.
It is the feeling as a part of society. It explains the extent to which feelings of an individual are related to the society and community. It reflects the commonness of an individual with the others along with the sense of belonging. For being socially integrated, the interdependence on others through norms and fondness is must. Lack of social integration leads to estrangement from society and individual feels socially rejected.
It is feeling of an individual’s value in society. It reflects self-obligation of a person towards others and whether the behavior of a person affects the society as a whole. To contribute socially, an individual must feel responsible to give something valuable to the world. If not able to do so then an individual may feel alienated from the society. As per Erikson, midlife is the period adults can contribute most to the society and shape the coming generation into productive members of society.
It is a state where an individual or a group interact with each other. Interaction among people give rise to new ideas and ability to maintain coherence when faced with undesired and stressful life events.
It is positive comfort level with others. There is openness to ideas, efforts and experiences to grow continually. People who can envision this potential in themselves are socially healthy. They realize that they have the ability to make society better and healthier and in turn, they will be the beneficiaries of the social growth.
It is the ability of a person to accept the good and tolerate the bad in society. In order to fit in the community, an individual might behave like others around him/her. People exhibit this behavior to feel comfortable in society. An individual with good understanding of self and who accepts both good and bad in self is known to have a good social and mental health. Thus, it can be said that the self-acceptance is necessary for social acceptance of others.
Strategies to achieve social health
In order to achieve good social health, an individual must be willing to:
Strategies to improve social health
Build healthy relations
Develop healthy habits in family
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